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APPEAL TURTLE CREEK AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT AND TURTLE CREEK BOROUGH v. BOARD PROPERTY ASSESSMENT (12/04/81)

decided: December 4, 1981.

IN RE: APPEAL OF TURTLE CREEK AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT AND TURTLE CREEK BOROUGH, APPELLANTS
v.
BOARD OF PROPERTY ASSESSMENT, APPEALS AND REVIEW OF THE COUNTY OF ALLEGHENY, PENNSYLVANIA, WITH NOTICE TO ALLEGHENY COUNTY INDUSTRIAL AUTHORITY, APPELLEE. IN RE: APPEAL OF ALLEGHENY COUNTY INDUSTRIAL AUTHORITY ET AL. TURTLE CREEK AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT AND TURTLE CREEK BOROUGH, APPELLANTS



Appeals from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in the case of In Re: Appeal of Allegheny County Industrial Authority and Penn Plaza, Inc., Developer, from the Assessment of the Board of Property Assessment, Appeals and Review of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania for property situate in Turtle Creek Borough and In Re: Appeal of Turtle Creek Area School District and Turtle Creek Borough v. Board of Property Assessment, Appeals and Review of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, et al., No. GD 80-02370 and No. GD 80-01429.

COUNSEL

Christopher M. Fleming, with him G. N. Evashavik, Evashavik, Capone, Evans & Della Vecchia, for appellants.

Harvey E. Robins, with him Eric F. Solomon, Brennan, Robins & Daley, and William J. Fahey and John M. Silvestri, for appellees.

President Judge Crumlish, Jr. and Judges Rogers and Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Rogers.

Author: Rogers

[ 63 Pa. Commw. Page 68]

The Allegheny County Industrial Authority is the owner of real estate located in the Borough of Turtle Creek and the Turtle Creek Area School District which it leases to a private developer named Penn Plaza, Inc. The Allegheny County Board of Property Assessment, Appeals and Review (Board) fixed

[ 63 Pa. Commw. Page 69]

    the assessment of the property for local tax purposes at $121,000 for the year 1978. On March 9, 1978, an appeal from the assessment was filed on behalf of the borough and school district. The hearing of the appeal did not take place until November 14, 1979, when the Board heard evidence adduced by, or on behalf of, the municipal subdivisions and, as authorized by Section 11 of the Second Class County Assessment Law,*fn1 72 P.S. § 5452-11, took under consideration both the 1978 and 1979 assessments. The Board declined to change the 1978 assessment of $121,000 but increased the 1979 assessment to $171,000.

The Industrial Authority and Penn Plaza appealed the Board's order to the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County which did not change the $121,000 assessment for 1978 but reduced the 1979 assessment to $121,000. The court additionally gave specific leave to all the parties to file an appeal to the Board of the 1980 assessment, although the time allowed for such an appeal had passed at the time of its order.

A certified mail notice of the appeal to the Board and of the scheduling of the hearing of November 14, 1979 was sent to the Industrial Authority. This notice never reached the Authority and was returned to the Board unclaimed. Therefore, the Industrial Authority did not know of the appeal or of the scheduled hearing and was not there. This was because the borough and school district's appeal to the Board was made in the following fashion: the manager of Turtle Creek Borough, using an appeal form designed for taxpayer appeals, named the Industrial Authority as the appellant, failed to disclose that either the borough

[ 63 Pa. Commw. Page 70]

    or the school district was the appellant, failed to disclose his connection with the borough, and finally and fatally provided an incorrect address for the Industrial Authority. The court below held that this so-called appeal was ineffective for any purpose. We agree.

Section 11 of the Second Class County Assessment Law, 72 P.S. § 5452-11 provides, inter alia, that "[a]t all appeal hearings, the property owner or his agent appearing for him shall have the right to be represented by counsel and to be accompanied by witnesses or assistants." Since, as the result of the feckless manner in which the borough manager went about filing the appeal to the Board, the owner was denied its right to be present at the hearing and to contest the proposed increase of its assessment, ...


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